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Sociality and Materiality in World of Warcraft

Gadsby, NA; (2016) Sociality and Materiality in World of Warcraft. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The focus of my thesis is the role and status of control in the MMO World of Warcraft where one of the primary motivations for player engagement was to eliminate and marginalise contingency at sites across the game that were perceived to be prone to the negative effects of contingency, a process that its developers were to a significant degree complicit in. My field sites traced the activities and lives of gamers across the physical location of London and the south east of the United Kingdom and their online game locations that constituted World of Warcraft and occasionally other online games which included the guild they were a member of that was called ‘Helkpo’. It examines how the transparency attributed to the game’s code, its ‘architectural rules’, framed the unpredictability of players as problematic and how codified ‘social rules’ attempted to correct this shortcoming. In my thesis I dive into the lives of the members of Helkpo as both guild members and as part of the expansive network that constituted their social lives in London. It demonstrates how the indeterminate nature of information in the relations in their social network contrasted with the modes of accountability that World of Warcraft offered, defined by different forms of information termed ‘knowing’ and ‘knowledge’. This chapter considers how the certainties of the game produced a more reliable space for the enactment of English culture’s social dualism of public and private. I develop the argument that control should be considered as a legitimate issue of concern for studies of games and more broadly within processual anthropologies. I suggest that where contingency is ascribed cultural classification there is always the possibility that cultural forms of control may be employed to eliminate it. Importantly, I argue that as anthropologists the recognition of control as a meaningful product of culture, even under the indeterminate conditions of modernity, remains critical for the discipline.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Sociality and Materiality in World of Warcraft
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Anthropology, Digital Anthropology, Gaming, World of Warcraft, Contingency, Englishness, Fantasy, Control
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1522334
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